Twenty Twenty Vision
I don't remember many trips to the optician throughout my life, partly because of the times I have been; it has been determined that I have 20/20 vision. A person with 20/20 vision is said to have an evident visibility range – on an eye chart, this person can read the right letters from the right distance.
In the book of Matthew, we read about God's design for our spiritual eyesight and how we view the world. Ironically, the introduction to this principle begins in Matthew Chapter 20, verse 20! While this passage of scripture can be interpreted in numerous ways, I want to share a few thoughts on this scripture as it relates to vision and perspective. The scripture can be found by clicking here.
We pick up the story just after Jesus predicted his death, much to the dismay of his disciples. Sensing that both Jesus is the Messiah and that things will change quickly, the mother of James and John wanted to secure for her boys an 'in' with Jesus. As she approaches Jesus and the interaction she pursues, we see three things that perhaps hinder our spiritual sight and prevent us from seeing with spiritual clarity.
- The first 'sight limiting' action is found in verse 20. Note that this mother kneels in reverence before she requests Jesus. Kneeling before a person was, and is, a sign of great respect, but while her posture is respectful, her request isn't. Her motive for asking Jesus to 'promote' her sons is not one of purity; it needs to be more balanced. She has become more concerned that her sons are granted a special place in the kingdom than the advancement of the kingdom! Have you ever noticed in ministry service that if our motives are not quite right, our vision of what God could do is somewhat limited? If we want Matthew's 20/20 vision, we must ensure integration between our actions and motives.
- The second 'sight limiting' action is found in verse 21, where this mother begs Jesus to "grant that these two sons of hers may sit at his right and left hand." In Hebrew culture, being at the right hand of someone important was prominent. This lady knew exactly what she was asking as she made this request. However, her request reveals to us that one of the things that she most wanted for her boys in ministry was prominence – she wanted them to have a special place and a special privilege. Have you ever sought to engage in ministry for similar reasons? Perhaps because it would provide some internal satisfaction, probably because someone would notice what you'd done, maybe to even try to earn an excellent standing within the kingdom? I confess that there are times when the lure of a solid reputation has motivated me in ministry. When we begin to think this way, our spiritual vision is once more limited. Our motives should not be self-centered.
- With remarkable tact, Jesus asks all of the gathered disciples whether they can drink the cup that he will soon drink, the cup of suffering (22). While they all responded in the affirmative, it is true that they didn't fully understand the suffering that would be involved in following Jesus – suffering that would ultimately lead to all of them being martyred. We can quickly enter into ministry activity expecting everything to be okay – each time we speak up for Christ. These people come to know him, everything we say will accelerate a person's discipleship, or God will reward our small energy outputs with exponential kingdom returns. It is easy for us to believe following the will and way of Jesus will remove us from all pain. But it doesn't. Once we accept that ministry is an 'easy ride,' we quickly become limited in what God can do in and through us.
So, as we seek to serve God, how can we ensure that we have a 20/20 vision and can see clearly what it means to pursue the way of Jesus? The answer is found in the last few verses of this scripture (26-28). Jesus says, "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Clarity of kingdom vision and perspective is found when we look at life through the lenses of a servant.
Do you have Matthew's 20/20 vision?